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Police Bribe Probe Spurs High-Level Resignations at Scotland Yard

July 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: New developments swirled in London today as a phone hacking scandal spread from the Murdoch media empire to the British government. Scotland Yard had two high-level resignations in 24 hours. And officials reported the death of one of the scandal’s earliest whistle-blowers.

We begin with this report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.

GARY GIBBON: No sooner had the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned than one of his most senior officers did the same thing. Assistant Commissioner John Yates was head of counterterrorism.

JOHN YATES, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner: The threats we face in the modern world are such that I would never forgive myself if I was unable to give total commitment to the task of protecting London and the country during this period. I simply cannot let this — the situation continue.

GARY GIBBON: The police authority committee that decides whether police conduct should be investigated met this morning. They were highly critical of John Yates’ decisions two years ago, when allegations of hacking at the News of the World resurfaced.

At the time, John Yates decided there was nothing new to investigate. The committee decided he should now be fully investigated. That meant John Yates would be suspended, and he decided to resign.

JOHN YATES: I have acted with complete integrity, and my conscience is clear. I look forward to the future judge-led inquiry where my role will be examined in a proper and calmer environment.

GARY GIBBON: John Yates had also been under attack for the Met’s decision to hire the former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis as a communications adviser at the very time that people were pleading with the Met to investigate allegations against the News of the World.

That hiring was at the heart of the Met Chief Sir Paul Stephenson’s to stand down yesterday. In his resignation statement, he implied that David Cameron’s decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as the government’s communications chief was a worse decision.

David Cameron heard about the second senior police resignation en route to South Africa. Aides said he would now be rushing back to London much earlier than planned in time to make a statement to M.P.s. Parliament’s holiday is being put off for a day to make it happen.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: What matters most is that we ensure very swift and effective continuity at the Metropolitan Police Service, so the — they do not miss a beat in terms of carrying out these vital investigations into what happened in the media and also what happened in the police service.

GARY GIBBON: And this morning, Sean Hoare, a former News of the World reporter who had alleged that Andy Coulson himself personally asked him to tap into phones, was found dead at his home in Watford. He had a history of drink and drug problems. Police said the death was unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious.